Thursday, January 17, 2013

I see in the glass darkly.

When I married my husband, I married into his family. If that family were a building made of earthly stones, the large rock that for so long stood at the corner of the foundation, the one that bore the most weight, has been taken out of his place. He passed from this life last week at the age of 96. My husband's father was a Christian man and there was nothing fancy about him; still, many people said rightly that he was "a prince of a man."

The house is being restructured. We know that God's everlasting arms are under us in any case, but I feel the shifting, and the huge change. And I could not think of a thing to say here until today when I read these words from a hymn of the Greek Orthodox Rite for the Burial of Priests. This man who was so significant in my life was not a priest, or even Orthodox, but the hymn helps me to pray and to hold the mysteries in faith.

God intended the soul and body to be a unity, but at death they have to be torn apart. The words wonder about that and about other things regarding our death of which we understand so little. I like the musical setting by John Tavener; you can read the words below the link while you listen to the hymn.

And let us do as exhorted at the end, to enter into Christ, and His Light. Amen.


Why these bitter words of the dying, O brethren,
which they utter as they go hence?
I am parted from my brethren.
All my friends do I abandon, and go hence.
But whither I go, that understand I not,
neither what shall become of me yonder;
only God who hath summoned me knoweth.
But make commemoration of me with the song:

But whither now go the souls?
How dwell they now together there?
This mystery have I desired to learn,
but none can impart aright.
Do they call to mind their own people, as we do them?
Or have they forgotten all those who mourn them
and make the song:

We go forth on the path eternal,
and as condemned, with downcast faces,
present ourselves before the only God eternal.
Where then is comeliness? Where then is wealth?
Where then is the glory of this world?
There shall none of these things aid us,
but only to say oft the psalm:

If thou hast shown mercy unto man, O man,
that same mercy shall be shown thee there;
and if on an orphan thou hast shown compassion,
the same shall there deliver thee from want,
If in this life the naked thou hast clothed,
the same shall give thee shelter there,
and sing the psalm:

Youth and the beauty of the body
fade at the hour of death,
and the tongue then burneth fiercely,
and the parched throat is inflamed.
The beauty of the eyes is quenched then,
the comeliness of the face all altered,
the shapeliness of the neck destroyed;
and the other parts have become numb,
nor often say:

With ecstasy are we inflamed if we but hear
that there is light eternal yonder;
that there is Paradise,
wherein every soul of Righteous Ones rejoiceth.
Let us all, also, Enter into Christ,
that all we may cry aloud thus unto God:

He is the Resurrection and the Life


M.K. said...

What a beautiful and mournful hymn. Thank you for sharing it. Each Sunday, as we stand and recite together the Apostles' Creed, I say with enthusiasm that line, "I believe in the resurrection of the body." Oh, I do! We do enter into Christ, and into His resurrection. He first, we second. It is in many ways a mystery, but I do find comfort and hope in many parts of Scripture that give us indications of "how dwell they now together there?" Moses, although dead and buried atop a mountain hundreds of years before, appeared bodily before 3 disciples in the Transfiguration. Peter wanted to house him. Somewhere, Enoch, Elijah and Jesus all have fleshly bodies, right now. Where are they? Certainly they are with departed saints. Things worth pondering. May you be comforted in days to come, dear friend. I think often of how few years we have remaining here, and of how many wonderful ones we will have there. Walt has started his adventure. I'm so sorry for the empty space in your life right now.

Jo said...

Dear Gretchen Joanna, so sorry for your father-in-law's death, but how marvellous to have that accolade about a life, 'a prince of a man'. The image you have found for him, of a foundational rock, that is very moving. I have often found, after someone has I know and love has died, that it is only then that I can really see the shape and significance of their 'ordinary' life. I love that your faith has space for questions, as seen in this beautiful hymn. Bless you dear, and your husband, as he comes to terms to life without his father.

Gumbo Lily said...

So many questions in this hymn, and yet the Alleluia between each verse. Beautiful. May God bring the Alleluia to your heart.

DebD said...

may his memory be eternal! So sorry for the family's loss.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

A very beautiful tribute from a loving daughter-in-law. I'm so sorry for your (temporary!) loss, but isn't it wonderful you had him in your life up until now? A great blessing.


BrightSoul said...

My sympathies go to your family. Through the loss, may there be peace. Thank you for sharing this most beautiful ministered to my soul.

Paula said...

I'm so sorry for your loss.... loved ones gone on are in a far better place~ but our lives here are left so empty without them...
Beautiful words and video~ and sending prayers your way.

Emily J. said...

May your father-in-law rest in peace. Grateful for in-laws who are second parents by love rather than relations by law.

Cathy said...

My sincere condolences go out to you and your family.

I was thinking this week with the event of Roe vs Wade, how every life is precious, no matter the age.

Beautiful hope and uplifting praise to our LORD.

elizabeth said...

Memory Eternal! The funerals in the Orthodox church have a deep beauty... May God bless and comfort you all and remember your Father-in-law in His Kingdom...

Left-Handed Housewife said...

So sorry for your loss, GretchenJoanna. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and the lovely hymn.


Anita said...

My deepest sympathy to your husband and family and may your memories bring you peace and comfort.